WILMINGTON, Del.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--There’s good and bad news for Louisiana’s pets: the Pelican State is no longer the state with the highest rate of heartworm disease in the country. However, according to the American Heartworm Society (AHS), which conducts a nationwide heartworm incidence survey every three years, Louisiana has only dropped from a #1 to a #2 ranking for the deadly disease.
The latest AHS survey is based on testing data from the 2013 calendar year. More than 4,500 veterinary practices and shelters in the nation participated, contributing data from an estimated 3.5 million patients. Results of the survey are being released to help pet owners better understand the threat of heartworm disease, both nationwide and in their area.
A state-by-state breakout of the findings shows that Louisiana came in second place behind Alabama, with Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Oklahoma filling out the remaining top ten states. Three years ago, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas topped the list.
The American Heartworm Society bases their rankings on the average number of heartworm-positive dogs per clinic. During the 2013 calendar year, Louisiana veterinary practices reported an average of 81 heartworm-positive dogs per clinic, compared to 105 dogs per clinic in 2010.
“It’s encouraging to see steps being taken in the right direction,” states AHS president and veterinarian Stephen Jones, DVM. “At the same time, these numbers indicate that many Louisiana pet owners need to be more vigilant about heartworm prevention.”
Heartworm disease affects pets nationwide
Heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states, and states in the southeast quadrant of the U.S. historically have led the nation in heartworm incidence. Heartworm disease is spread via mosquitoes, and warm-weather states with high mosquito populations face significant disease risk. High local populations of infected dogs and wildlife (coyotes and foxes carry heartworm) also increase the risk of heartworm to unprotected pets.
Treatment for heartworm infection in dogs is available, but is costly and requires strict supervision by both veterinarians and owners, as well as several months of cage confinement. Dr. Jones notes that while dogs with heartworm disease can be successfully treated, the infection can cause permanent damage to a pet’s organs and circulatory system. Meanwhile, there is no approved treatment medication for heartworm disease in cats.
The annual cost of prevention typically runs less than ten percent of the cost of treatment. In addition, a number of heartworm preventives also protect pets against intestinal parasites and fleas as well as heartworms.
“Heartworm disease is a deadly—but preventable—disease,” Dr. Jones concludes. “That’s why the American Heartworm Society recommends that pets be tested for heartworm each year and that dogs and cats be put on preventive medicine for heartworm year-round.”
For more information on heartworm disease and the AHS Heartworm Incidence Survey, visit www.heartwormsociety.org.